Is It Actually Against the Law to Pay People to Vote for You?

By Jedidiah McKeehan

What would happen if someone running for public office simply said, “If you vote for me, I will pay each of you $5.00.” Would anything happen to that person? Is there any specific law that prevents someone from doing this? Would they face any kind of punishment?

In Tennessee, there is a law that prevents this. Tennessee Code Annotated section 2-19-121 states that it is unlawful for any candidate to expend, pay, promise, or loan or become liable in any way for money or other things of value, directly or indirectly, or to agree to enter into any contract with any person in exchange for that person voting for them.

Okay, so now we know there is a specific law that prevents candidates from bribing people to vote for them. What happens if they do it though?

Tennessee Code Annotated section 2-19-123 states that a violation of this law is a Class C misdemeanor. This is the lowest level criminal offense in Tennessee that still carries a potential jail sentence. The maximum jail time someone would face if they are convicted of this crime is 30 days.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including family law, criminal, and personal injury. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.